Challenge Day 41: Coping with Children's Toys

organize toys

They're colorful, cute ... and scattered everywhere! Are children's toys taking over shared space in your family room?

With tiny pieces and a tendency to stray, children's playthings can create instant clutter in multi-use spaces. How to calm the chaos caused by children's toys?

To tame the toy monster, try these ideas for routines and storage to make peace with children's toys, in today's Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge assignment.

Today's Assignment:
Make Peace with Children's Toys

Parents (and grandparents!) know the dilemma: children's toys rarely stay contained to children's rooms!

When the family gathers in a shared space, the little ones come with their own built-in clutter in tow. Lego blocks explode and run for every corner. Action figures and fashion dolls scatter their wardrobe willy-nilly, and even sedate activities like board games can still generate tons of kid clutter.

What's a parent to do? Try these ideas to make peace with kid clutter in the family room.

Assign A Home

For many families, peace on the toy front is as easy as assigning a home for family room playthings. Whether it's a set of fabric baskets placed on a low shelf, or a dedicated toy organizer shelf, having storage space close at hand makes it easy to sweep up the day's toys.

Color-code containers by child to encourage little ones to help--and do add an extra basket, the "toy jail", to help teach responsibility. Playthings that aren't picked up when requested earn a stay in toy jail; to retrieve them, children must complete a small chore.

Establish Clearing Routines

Every good pre-school teacher knows that toy pick-up routines are the key to keeping order in a bustling classroom. Borrow the concept for your organized home!

Planning five minutes "put-away time" before daily events--meals, outings, bedtime--gives children the cue they need to return belongings to their places.

Bring On the Bins

A "one bin at a time" rule works well in many settings, especially at Grandma's house. Yes, small fry can build their Lego constructions or set up the Barbie house on the family room coffee table--but to play with a different toy, they'll need to sweep the current items back into the bin and exchange it for the next one.

Choose stacking, lidded plastic bins to put this solution into play. Piled in a nearby closet or in the children's room, the bins will sort and organize playthings, as well as keep the family room tidy.